Saturday, 24 October 2015

October 2015 Favourites List

Autumn term has been full of excitement and thrills so far. The leaves are turning brown and there is a chill in the air, but life is exciting and good. Heavier coats and jackets are keeping me protected from the changing, falling temperatures. An umbrella is essential kit to be carried about everywhere.
I’ve been meeting my students, teaching seminars and lectures, trying to help people reach their potential. My new students are settling into learning about how to use the law, what the court’s procedure is in both civil and criminal matters and how to be young professionals. They are finding the learning curve is steep, and the terrain unfamiliar. It isn’t easy for them, there are many balls they have to keep in the air.

I am also trying to juggle the different balls in my life; professional life as a lecturer, my food related interests of cooking and blogging, my social and home life, slow progress learning to play the guitar, heavy involvement with social media and my love of live music. It is exhilarating to be kept busy and on my toes. But it sure is fun!

My pictures are the highlights of the three day inaugural Rockaway Beach Festival I attended this month at Butlins, Bognor Regis. I had an absolute blast and you can see more of my photos from a brilliant weekend away in my posts on tumblr as listed below.


Easy and speedy dish with Indian inspiration from Dan, the Curry Guy:

Georgia's always on my m-m-m-m-m-m-mind! (Back In The USSR, The Beatles) A spiced kidney bean salad from Georgia:

Dried porcini and fresh mixed mushrooms make this rich mushroom soup. I could do with some of this...

An Iranian/Persian rice dish, "jewelled" with broad beans, walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

A new recipe for a speedy supper to make on the fly from the fab Kavita at Kavey Eats blog - Golden baked peri-peri chicken, yoghurt and rice cake:

Big party four bean chilli... For Halloween or Bonfire night shindigs:

Here are some great aubergine/eggplant/baigoon recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi: Imam bayildi, Roast aubergine with almond tarator and basil oil, H√ľnkar begendi.

Honey & Co Shakshuka recipe (traditional Middle Eastern tomato and egg breakfast dish):

Articles/Know How:

Burnt garlic can ruin a carefully prepared and cooked dish. Here's a way of avoiding it:

You say "poh-tay-to", I say "po-tah-toe"..... Let's call the whole thing off! Hilarious story of a bust-up over how to pronounce 'focaccia':

Jamie, you've done such solid work campaigning for good school meals and healthier eating. Please sort out the tipping policy in your restaurants.

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Pakoras with Premier Inn Purple Sauce. The classic Indian tea-time snack given a fresh twist.

Gig review - Neil and Liam Finn, 22nd September 2015, Shepherds Bush Empire: 

A foodie walk around London's historic St James' area. A trip around the world in 8 stops!

Restaurant review, Haywards of Epping. Modern European food with flair and innovation.

My review of Johnny Marr's headline set at the first Rockaway Beach Festival:

Emma Pollock, The Membranes, The Fall and Echo And The Bunnymen: Day 1 of Rockaway Beach Festival, Butlins, Bognor Regis.

Matinee, St Deluxe, Band of Holy Joy, Mioaw Mioaw, Ghostpoet, Nadine Shah, Johnny Marr: Day 2 of Rockaway Beach Festival, Butlins, Bognor Regis.

Shocking Pinks, Jonnie Common, Pinkshinyultrablast, Young Fathers, Lola Colt, Spiritualized. Day 3 of Rockaway Beach Festival, Butlins, Bognor Regis.


Music For Misfits (3 part documentary on the history of Indie Music), BBC

Indie Classics at the BBC

Britpop at the BBC


First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

Alt-J - This Is All Yours

Echo and the Bunnymen - Ballyhoo

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Friday, 16 October 2015

St James' London; A food and drink walking tour

I was recently invited by the St James' Estate in London to a foodie's walk around the area. St James' is the square area bounded by Pall Mall, Piccadilly, St James' Street and Lower Regent Street.

Apparently, since the Restoration (of the Monarchy) and the time of Charles II, St James' in London has been the place to live, go out, eat, drink and be merry. The royal court of William and Mary located themselves there, and with 4 theatres, the aristocracy and many "hangers on" milling about the place, it was a place to see and be seen.

Our food and drink tour of St James was designed to symbolise a trip around the world. Our starting point therefore HAD to be on the steps of The Reform Club on Pall Mall, where Phileas Fogg began and ended his epic journey "Around The World In 80 Days". 

Our trip would be "Around The World In Eight Stops". Our guide was to be Jonathan (Johnny) Ray, Wine Columnist and Commentator for The Spectator.


Bilbao Berria was our first stop, and on a wet and rainy Monday night, some Spanish sunshine was much appreciated! 

Once we had shaken off the raindrops, we were welcomed with a cool, refreshing glass of La Guita Manzanilla. Often considered as super-dry by many drinkers, this Manzanilla had a freshness which made it more quaffable. I was able to appreciate its inherent ability to encourage the appetite. Just as well, as we were shown how to slice a Cinco Jotas Iberico Jamon, the finest Iberico ham available, and treated to a generous amount to nibble with our sherry.

Founded initially in Barcelona by three friends, Bilbao Berria have two restaurants in Barcelona, and others in Bilbao and Formentera. The food is inspired by that of Northern Spain, namely the Basque region and Catalunya. However, these dishes are modern takes on those traditional recipes, being lighter, simpler and less rustic.


Next up was the futuristic Japanese fusion food of Inamo St James.

We sampled the house sake served chilled which was an Akashi-Tai Honjozo. It's a crisp, dry, fresh sake which is extremely light; much lighter than many other more familiar sakes. Somehow it tastes floral, even though it is only made of rice, high quality polished rice. We watch our sushi chef sear rolls of salmon maki sushi with a blowtorch, which is carefully sliced into rounds and served up with a small ball of searingly hot wasabi, pickled ginger and soy.

Inamo's Asian fusion food and technological approach make it a fun and approachable place for an evening's eating. However, from previous visits, I can vouch for their excellent quality food and friendly, helpful service, making it a super place for an evening out.


Paxton and Whitfield is where we stopped off to sample some cheeses and learned how to put together the perfect cheeseboard. Paxton's have origins going back to 1742, when Stephen Cullum opened a stall in Aldwych Market. His son, Sam, opened a shop in Jermyn Street, and the current name comes from the two partners he took on in the business. The shop supplies both the Queen and Prince Charles, their royal connections going back to Queen Victoria.

The cheeses we tried were a Finn, a British cheese made in Herefordshire on the banks of the Wye. When curating a cheese board, we were advised to select cheeses with different attributes; some soft, some hard, some oozy; some gentle, some strong, some blue. The secret is in the order you eat them; beginning with the most delicate first. The Finn was creamy and rich, young and fresh.

Next up was the French Comte, 26 month aged, from the Jura Mountains. This was a delectably nutty cheese with a little bit of natural "crunch". We learned that this crunch was common in aged cheeses and was caused by crystallisation of the calcium in the milk. If making a fondue, we were advised to use Gruyere as the base and only to add a small amount of a cheese like this, to avoid busting a dinner party budget!

Finally, in keeping with the idea that the strongest and most robustly flavoured cheeses should be sampled last, we tried the Barkham Blue. It is a British cheese, made in Wokingham from Channel Islands milk, and is an award winning cheese. This family made cheese was intense with blue-penicillin flavour. Great for lovers of blue cheese, but a tad too strong for me.


When it comes to traditional London restaurants, Wiltons is perhaps the "old faithful" you've never heard of....

George William Wilton started a seafood stall on Haymarket in 1742. It is unlikely that he imagined being so successful that the stall would become a restaurant, and that over 270 years later, it would still have his name! 

Sure, the premises have moved a few times, but there has been a Wiltons restaurant in St James since 1805. To put that in context, Napoleon had been Emperor of France for a year, and Jane Austen would publish her first novel 6 years later!

Specialising in seafood and fish, this is an excellent place to indulge in oysters with Champagne. The oysters are brought in from Mersea, Essex and the Wiltons house champagne is an superbly observed match.

In addition to the super-fresh oysters, we sampled an elegant platter of house smoked fish; smoked farmed salmon, smoked wild salmon and smoked eel. 

The smoking was light and subtle, allowing the full flavour and texture of the salmon to come through. When the quality of the fish is so high, it does not need to be overpowered. The smoked eel was a new experience for me, but its slightly nutty flavour and creamy finish made them something I will definitely order in the future. 


The food hall of Fortnum and Mason's is like a cathedral for foodies. If you've never been, you must, and if you've not been in a while, it is always worth re-visiting. Trading since 1707 and known for their luxury teas, preserves, hampers and other delights, it is famous the world over. But did you know that the Scotch Egg was invented there? It's a fascinating fact!

Our stop at Fortnums was with the purpose of sampling their preserves, drawing from the old and new. Obviously, it's a great place to do your Christmas shopping for the food and drink fans in your life, since we will soon be thinking about preparing for the festive season.

First up was a wee tipple. This is my "Bee's Knees" cocktail being brought to me. Orange blossom honey, gin, orange and lemon juice combined in a celebration of all things citrus. 

My platter here features; Venison parfait and thin toasts; butternut squash sage and pine nut on sourdough toastie and finally sausage roll crostini.  

The versatile and flavourful preserves were an excellent flavour counterpoint to these dishes, proving that Christmas canapes can be spruced up with a little imagination!


Top chef Angela Hartnett is known for Murano Restaurant, her luxurious Italian fine dining premises. However, Cafe Murano is like Murano's cool little brother or sister. It's a fun, informal place for chat, nibbles and wine. It's designed to be a drop in place to eat with a dining counter. 

The menu changes daily, according to the availability of good quality produce, bring freshly printed out freshly each day. Attention to detail is central; even the pasta is made from eggs from Italy. The menu on our visit was full of tasty "stuzzichini" (finger food!), and relatively reasonable prices (for such a central part of Central London). 

We were treated to some decadent truffle arancini (deep fried breaded risotto balls) with strong, superb truffle flavours, creamy rice and oozy cheese. Accompanied by a glass of prosecco, we felt transported to northern Italy!


Chutney Mary has long been a high end Indian restaurant of note. Since 1990 it had been located in Chelsea, but has decided to make the move to the West End. The new premises (which are on St James' Street) are beautiful; there's a sophisticated bar (The Pukka Bar) on entering the restaurant, the main restaurant space and a number of private dining rooms.

The Pukka Bar is a perfect place for pre-dinner cocktails. Their offerings are highly original, carefully blended and well worth trying, even if they seem unfamiliar. They exude a taste of the exotic; Saffron Martini, Watermelon Cosmopolitan, Rangpur Gimlet. My Watermelon Cosmopolitan was fruity, fresh and delightful.

The Lobster Chilli Fry was delicately spiced and perfectly cooked, the lobster retaining its texture. Overcooked and chewy lobster is an insult to the king of seafood! Standards here are high, so I expected nothing less. 

These cute little cube stacks are actually made from layers of chicken wing meat. Served with a rich tamarind sauce, they were lovely little nibbles which make a great sharing starter. 

Indian style "scrambled eggs" on toast. Relatively un-set, with some smooth liquid textures, the herby, spicy egg would be great for a Sunday morning breakfast!

The biryani was a salutary example of how a noble Indian dish is often dumbed down in your typical "curry house" restaurant. The biryani here had been cooked so the rice was fluffy; each grain remaining separate and individual, deeply aromatic, and spiced with delicacy. 


This restaurant opened in 2013 under the leadership of Joel Kissin as a tribute to the legendary chef X Marcel Boulestin, whose Covent Garden restaurant bore the Boulestin name from 1927 to 1994. 

Boulestin's ethos was simple French food with a nod to the great traditional dishes of France without the pretention or fuss, leading Elizabeth David to say of him: “His intelligence, sense of taste…his ease of style, un-scolding, un-pompous, un-sarcastic, ineffusive, [sic] and to so high a degree, inspiriting and creative.”

We were served with a complete miniaturised 4 course meal on a plate here at Boulestin; Canape of tomato, burrata and olive tapanade, Soupe de Poisson (fish soup) in a tea cup, Daube de boeuf (beef stew) with bone marrow and squash puree in a large china spoon and in the small expresso cup, a Sauternes Custard with Agean prunes and Armagnac.

Whilst the whole plate of food was very enjoyable, the stand out dish for me was the delectable Sauternes Custard. Sauternes is one of my very favourite dessert wines, but I like to drink the stuff. It seemed unimaginable to cook with it! But this rich custard takes the sweet tones and aroma of the wine and makes a classy and sophisticated flavour combination. It will be hard to go back to plain old vanilla now!

My world tour in 8 stops was an exhilarating experience of superb food. Travel is said to broaden the mind, and I can truly say I have discovered some foodie haunts I will be visiting time and again. So central, so easy to get to, St James is a great place to meet, eat and have fun!

Snigdha would like to thank the St James Estate and Crown Estate for inviting her on the food walk. Snigdha participated in the food walk as their guest.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Haywards Restaurant, Epping

Sundays should be a day for long and leisurely lunches with family and friends. I don't think we all get the opportunity to do so as much as we would like, which is sad. We should try to make that time, but life does get in the way.

I recently went back to Him Indoors' stomping ground of Essex to have Sunday lunch with my in-laws. My mother in law has two favourite restaurants local to her, but one closed and everyone has been to the other many times before. Time to try somewhere new; Haywards of Epping. 

A fairly new restaurant, it draws from both contemporary and older traditions in its decor and food. Wood beams, wood floors, bistro style chairs evoke tradition, but the clean lines, airy open space are up to date elements.

The food similarly, has classic influences, but given a contemporary and innovative twist.

We all ordered from the three course Sunday lunch menu. However, we discovered there were some lovely little extras which came our way. 

First up was the amuse bouche - a veloute of celeriac with puffed rice topping.

It was light and bubbly, with flavours of roasted celeriac. It certainly was velvety. The puffed rice was homemade, puffed in its skin. A small bowl of delight, I could have licked it clean.

Next were the canapes... Can you guess what they are? 

They look like biscuits. However, they were savoury and curiously so! The rolls, so reminiscent of Cannoli, are little pastry tubes filled with light chicken liver parfait. Indulgent and full of calories, they were delectable! We were impressed how a traditional Italian dessert was reimagined in such an effective way.

The cute little mini macarons were beetroot with horseradish cream. Thankfully, the horseradish was mild and toned down, or it would have overpowered my sinuses as well as blot out the gentle sweetness of the beetroot. The macarons were fluffy, soft, made with real skill. 

"Cauliflower, Scallop, Curry"
Cauliflower puree and cous cous, raisins and pine nuts.

Cauliflowers get a bad press. People seem to think that they are only good for cauliflower cheese, and their nutritious qualities are overlooked because people think only green vegetables are good for them. The cauliflower puree was subtle, complimenting the scallop, and the gentle spicing did not overpower. Gentle turmeric with a hint of cumin and coriander, this was balanced, attractive and enjoyable. A fine dish.

"Heirloom beetroot, Goats Cheese"
Oven and salt baked beetroot, goats cheese mousse

We loved the presentation of this dish, the colours and shapes making bold statements on the blank canvas of the plate. The beetroot came plain cooked, gently pickled, roasted and pureed, different textures being achieved in each preparation. The creamy mousse was rich and heavy, the amount served being enough to enjoy, but not overcome the diner.

"Mushroom risotto, parmesan foam"
Sour dough crumble, parmesan foam

Covered with a mushroom flavoured foam, the risotto was hiding beneath. Flavourful and cooked just to the bite, the risotto got the thumbs up. It's just a shame that the picture doesn't look too great.

"Stone Sea Bass, Mushroom, Artichoke"
Steamed sea bass, mushroom consomme, roasted artichoke and puree

In a lovely bit of theatre, the fish was brought to the table, with the broth poured over at the table.

The fish was moist, perfectly cooked and fresh tasting. The consomme, although rich with mushroom flavours was a good complement to the fish. It could have overpowered the delicate fish, but was well observed. The artichoke puree and roasted artichoke were a welcome contrast in flavour and texture. An innovative and carefully designed dish, it was a great main course. 

The pre-dessert was a cute tiny Kilner jar full of pear jelly with chunks of cooked pear and pear cream on top. A small portion of delight which helped create expectation for the puddings to arrive.

"Chocolate, Lemon, Salted hazlenut"
Chocolate pave, salted hazlenut ice cream, lemon curd

Indulgent, creamy chocolate is what you see in the picture and was exactly what was delivered in real life. The pave was rich and satisfying. I had been sceptical about the ice cream, but my worry about the seasoning was misplaced. I had feared there would be too much salt, taking the ice cream into savoury territory. The merest hint of salt brought out the nutty sweetness of the hazlenut, the ice cream and lemon curd balancing the richness of the chocolate.

"Green Tea, Pistachio, Yoghurt"
Green tea mousse, pistachio sponge, yoghurt sorbet

The green tea pudding was beautifully presented with delicate, lovely colouring. The macaron madness continued with more perfect textured little delights. This dessert was a fresh, light tasting symphony of contrasting textures. 

The petit fours were indulgent creamy little chocolates. However, my mother in law pinched one of mine, so I can't tell you how they compared. How cheeky!

For fans of something more savoury than sweet, here is the wonderful cheese board selection, making you pretty spoilt for choice!

We were all way too stuffed with our generous lunch to eat any of the cheeses, although we did drool over them when on our way out.

Haywards Restaurant 

111 Bell Common, Epping, Essex CM16 4DZ 

Dining times:

Monday and Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday: 6pm – 9.30pm        

Thursday:  12pm – 2.30pm and 6pm – 9.30pm

Friday and Saturday: 12pm – 2.30pm and 6pm – 10pm            

Sunday: 12.30pm – 3pm

01992 577350 

Our party paid in full for our meal. None of us have received any payment or incentive to post this review.